International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1007 v. Epcor, 2016 ABQB 574 – Test for Bona Fide LTD Plan
McGowan had been receiving long term disability (LTD) benefits for about a year when he qualified for a pension based on his age and years of service. In accordance with the terms of the LTD plan, which was provided by a third party insurer, his LTD benefits were terminated. McGowan resigned and began collecting his pension. He also filed a grievance, arguing that the LTD plan discriminated against him on the basis of his age.
The grievance arbitration panel held that while the LTD plan was discriminatory based on age, it was exempt per s. 7(2) of the Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA), which reads in part: "Subsection (1) as it relates to age… does not affect the operation of any bona fide retirement or pension plan or the terms or conditions of any bona fide group or employee insurance plan."
Teck Coal Limited v. United Steelworkers, Local 7884, 2016 CanLII 62603 (J. Hall) – Union Not Able to Expand Eligibility for Retiree Benefits Based on 23 Year Old Memo
The employer provided post-retirement benefits (PRB) to certain employees upon retirement. The PRBs were established unilaterally by the employer and they were never subject to any express agreement between the parties. There was no written policy documenting the employer’s practice for determining which employees were eligible for PRBs. The employer was always of the view that only employees who retire after reaching age 65, or who retire after reaching age 55 with at least 20 years of service were eligible for PRBs.
U.S. Steel Canada Inc. (USSC) sought and was granted protection under the the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act on September 16, 2014. At a subsequent hearing, the Ontario Superior Court ordered the suspension of USSC's obligation to fund its other post-employment benefits (OPEBs), except for life insurance.
In the present matter, the United Steel Workers Union (the USW) sought an order requiring USSC to terminate its suspension of the funding of OPEBs. USSC in turn offered to make a one-time payment of $2.7 million to a transition fund established by the Province of Ontario for the benefit of the retired employees of USSC (the Transition Fund).
Certainteed Gypsum Canada Inc. v. Cement, Lime, and Gypsum and Allied Workers, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Lodge D345, 2016 CanLII 31212 (A. Ponak) – Employer Liable for “Underinsured” Group Benefits
After elective eye surgery, the grievor filed a claim for weekly indemnity insurance with Sun Life, the employer's group insurance benefits provider. The grievor's claim was denied, as Sun Life viewed the surgery as elective and not necessary. The union filed a grievance, asking that the grievor receive the weekly indemnity payments to which it believed he was entitled.
The employer took the position that Sun Life was entitled to deny the claim and in any event any appeal should be directed to the insurer of the weekly indemnity, Sun Life, not the company. The union argued that the company had unilaterally changed the weekly indemnity insurance plan from an Administrative Services Only (ASO) arrangement with Sun Life to a Sun Life insurance plan during the term of the collective agreement, without providing notice or consulting with the union. As a result, the union took the position that the ultimate responsibility for payment lay with the employer.
Rein, an employee of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, launched an age discrimination complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission after her health and life insurance benefits were terminated at age 65. The employer cited s.7(2) of the Alberta Human Rights Act, which provides the (typical) exemption from the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of age for bona fide pension and benefit plans.
Cargill Limited v. Grain Workers’ Union, Local 333, 2016 CanLII 11868 (D. McPhillips) – Switch to ASO Means Benefit Claims Are Arbitrable
Three Cargill Limited (Cargill) employees launched grievances in relation to the denial of Sickness Indemnity Plan (SIP) benefits by Organizational Solutions Inc. (OSI), the administrator of the Cargill plan. Under the collective agreement*, Cargill was required to "make available a Sickness Indemnity Plan” and more specifically, to provide a specified weekly benefit, pay 85% of the cost of the plan and pay the cost of obtaining medical information. None of the terms of the SIP, including the eligibility requirements, were incorporated into the collective agreement.
Cargill took the position that the disputes were not arbitrable, arguing that previous grievance awards had determined: “…the procedure for resolving that dispute (denial of benefits) would be under any appeal mechanism in the plan itself or through the courts, not through the grievance- arbitration procedure in the Collective Agreement”.
Feldstein v. 364 Northern Development Corporation, 2016 BCSC 108 – Negligent Misrepresentation of LTD Benefits Costs Employer
Feldstein suffers from cystic fibrosis. As a result of his condition, Feldstein insists that any potential employer provide a certain level of long term disability (LTD) benefits. Feldstein had been provided with six months' working notice by his current employer and applied for a new position.
When interviewing with 364 Northern Development Corp. (364) Feldstein asked about the LTD benefits and specifically about a reference to “Proof of Good Health”. Based on discussions and email exchanges with Nizker, 364's Chief Information Officer, Feldstein understood that this phrase referred to the successful completion of a three-month probationary period (as opposed to a medical exam or other approval process). Feldstein went on to accept a position with 364, with the belief that he would be entitled to approximately $4,669 per month in LTD benefits after completion of three months' employment with 364.